Michelle Obama’s plea for Hollywood to make more movies about families of those who serve

Michelle Obama makes fundrais­ing swing through South­ern Cal­i­for­nia — At one stop, she pleads with the enter­tain­ment indus­try to tell the sto­ries of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies. The first lady is expected to hit the trail reg­u­larly as the cam­paign heats up.

In one of her first polit­i­cal stops since her hus­band announced his reelec­tion bid, First Lady Michelle Obama hit the cam­paign fundrais­ing cir­cuit in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Mon­day and also pleaded with the enter­tain­ment indus­try to bring the story of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies to the big and small screens.

At a $1,000-per-person lunchtime fundraiser in Pasadena, she lauded Pres­i­dent Obama’s accom­plish­ments.

We’ve gone from an econ­omy that was on the brink of col­lapse to an econ­omy that is start­ing to grow again,” she said. She men­tioned the health­care over­haul and the repeal of restric­tions against gay ser­vice mem­bers. She praised “jus­tice” in the killing of Osama bin Laden and cited the with­drawal of troops from overseas.

We are respon­si­bly end­ing the war in Iraq and have brought home 100,000 ser­vice­men and women,” she said.

The first lady, a con­stant cam­paign pres­ence in the 2008 race, is expected to be deployed reg­u­larly as the reelec­tion cam­paign heats up. Even as her husband’s pop­u­lar­ity has ebbed in the two years since he entered office, she remains one of the most pop­u­lar fig­ures in Obama’s circle.

Then, as now, she serves to human­ize a pres­i­dent often crit­i­cized for his cool demeanor. She did so Mon­day, describ­ing at the Pasadena event the anx­i­eties that come with the nation’s high­est office.

She described late nights at the White House, “after we’ve put the girls to bed,” when the pres­i­dent sits hunched at a desk, read­ing let­ters from Amer­i­cans about their problems.

I see the sad­ness and the worry that’s creas­ing his face,” she said.

In the evening, the first lady attended a fundraiser at the West­wood home of Michael S. Smith and James Cos­tos. Smith, a designer, dec­o­rated the White House when the Oba­mas moved in. Cos­tos is an exec­u­tive at HBO.

Ryan PhillippeDrew Bar­ry­moreEllen DeGeneresVanessa Williams and Brian Grazer were among about 380 peo­ple who attended. Tick­ets ranged from $1,500 to $35,800.

The money from both fundrais­ers goes to the Obama Vic­tory Fund, a joint ven­ture of the cam­paign and the Demo­c­ra­tic National Committee.

Ear­lier in the day, Michelle Obama took up one of her favorite projects — help­ing mil­i­tary fam­i­lies — and called on Hollywood’s cre­ative com­mu­nity to do more to bring their sto­ries to viewers.

She told 500 peo­ple crammed into the Writ­ers Guild The­ater in Bev­erly Hills that the sac­ri­fices and chal­lenges fac­ing mil­i­tary fam­i­lies deserved more atten­tion — and that one of the best ways of draw­ing that is through movies and TV shows.

The work isn’t that hard because the sto­ries are already com­pelling,” Obama said. “So I would urge you to do what you do best: Be cre­ative. Be funny. Be pow­er­ful. Move us. Move Amer­ica to think dif­fer­ently about these fam­i­lies and our men and women who serve so graciously.”

At the event, orga­nized by a task force rep­re­sent­ing Hollywood’s tal­ent guilds, Obama spoke on a panel mod­er­ated by direc­tor J.J. Abrams. The guilds recently pledged to sup­port the first lady’s “Join­ing Forces” ini­tia­tive that pro­motes vol­un­teer­ing to assist mil­i­tary families.

The effort includes three pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments per­formed by Steven Spiel­berg, Tom Hanksand Oprah Win­frey, each describ­ing how fam­i­lies of troops are cop­ing with deployments.

The PSAs are sched­uled to run in July on TV and in theaters.

This is “our way of giv­ing back to so many who’ve given so much to us,” said Kather­ine Fugate, cre­ator of the cable show “Army Wives” and a vol­un­teer in the effort.

To pro­mote the cause, Obama said, she was prepar­ing to record a few lines Mon­day for a brief appear­ance on an upcom­ing episode of the Nick­elodeon com­edy “iCarly,” whose lead char­ac­ter is a mil­i­tary kid whose father has been deployed.

When Abrams asked about her tele­vi­sion appear­ance, Obama said: “Let’s just say I’m the coolest mom on the face of the planet. Can you believe we have friends of my chil­dren who don’t believe I’m going to be on ‘iCarly’? But I was like, ‘Look, I’ve stayed in Buck­ing­ham Palace. Why is this such a huge leap?’ ”

Join­ing Obama on the panel were mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, includ­ing retired U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Jar­man from Ft. Irwin, who raised four chil­dren while his wife was deployed on her sec­ond tour in Iraq; and Capt. Kelly Smith, a National Guard air­craft com­man­der, who was con­nected live via Skype to her sis­ter, a com­bat pilot in Afghanistan.

Smith quib­bled a bit with how the mil­i­tary is por­trayed in Hol­ly­wood — the uni­forms are often incor­rect, she said — but praised one film in par­tic­u­lar for its depic­tion of troops.

One of my favorite por­tray­als is Will Smith in ‘Inde­pen­dence Day,’ ” Smith said. “He just kicked butt.”

By Kate Linthicum and Richard Ver­rier, Los Ange­les Times

June 14, 2011

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